The Opening Line

Writing is an art. We begin with a blank canvas—a white sheet of paper on a notebook, or on a computer screen. Using our imagination, we paint with our words, describing people and things, evoking emotion, and creating dialogue. We compose sentences filled with words we’ve carefully picked to help tell our stories. But before our stories can be told, we must first write that one line…the opening line that starts it all.

The beginning.

The first sentence that we write has to be good. Actually, it has to be great. We rely on this sentence to grab and engage a reader—make them curious—make them keep going until soon, they’ve turned the page.

I picked five random opening lines from some of the books in my little bookshelf. I’m sure that many of you have read these books. I do believe these are great examples of what an opening line should be. They are all unique, powerful, and engaging.

1. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
1984, by George Orwell

2. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

3. It was love at first sight.
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

4. When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

5. It is always like this: The best parties are made by people in trouble.
Away, by Amy Bloom

Add to this list! Leave me a comment below and write down a couple of memorable opening lines from your favorite books.

Have a great weekend!

For the Little Kids

Last Thursday, I had my Children’s Books Launch Pajama Party at Folio Books in San Francisco. Children came dressed in their pajamas, including my five-year-old daughter, Sammy. My husband took pictures as I soaked in the experience.

At the beginning of the event, Martha, the store manager, introduced me to the lovely crowd. After greeting and thanking them for coming, I read three of my books, “Mr. Dinosaur is Hiding,” “Green Bird Loves to Count,” and “Goodnight World.” It was wonderful seeing the kids listening and participating.

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After the reading, I mingled with the crowd and gave away Sammy’s Books stickers. I also got to sign some books.

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About two years ago, I read a bedtime book to Sammy as part of our bedtime routine. As I was leaving her room that night, I suddenly got inspired to try and write a bedtime book for her. Without skipping a beat, I used my graphic design skills and my love for writing to make something I wasn’t sure I could even do. Soon, Sammy’s Books was born, and “Goodnight World” was published in December 2012.

I always knew I wanted to become a writer, but I never knew I would ever write, or even illustrate children’s books. But that’s how inspiration works. If you let it guide you and push you to explore a small or a big idea, or a small or a big dream, you allow yourself to discover something magical—you get to see what else you’re capable of.

So now, I don’t only love writing books for the “big kids”, but I also love writing books for the little kids too.

Thank you, Sammy, for always inspiring me.

All books are NOW AVAILABLE in ebook and paperback format on Amazon

For more pictures from the event, click here.

Happy Reading!

Happy Friday!

It’s raining here in San Francisco. Perfect day for writing. I’ve been working on two new children’s books the last couple of weeks. I’m hoping to finalize the artwork by this weekend. I’m also in the process of editing my second novel. Lots of rewriting to still do. I’ll post pics of the children’s books soon and also excerpts from the second novel, so stay tuned.

What’s everyone working on these days?

Here’s one of my favorite clips from Family Guy. Enjoy!

 

How to Write

I love this scene.

“You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is…to write.”

What Makes a Good Novel?

What makes a good or a great novel? Is it the characters, the setting, the plot, the dialogue, or the ending? It’s probably a combination of all of these things, and more.

I’ve always believed that a good novel has to have the following ingredients, regardless of what genre:
1. Interesting characters
2. An exciting plot
3. A great story
4. A great ending

Good dialogue is important too. It is how we get a glimpse inside a character’s head and a character’s heart. When dialogue moves us—and makes us smile, laugh, and/or cry—we feel a stronger connection to the story and the characters, which makes the book memorable.

What makes a novel bad? I guess the opposite of the above, right?
1. Boring characters
2. A boring plot
3. A bad ending

And a lot more…

When you find yourself skipping paragraphs and/or pages, chances are, you’re losing interest in the characters and/or the story. I’m sure that many of you have opened a book, started reading it and then midway through, closed the book and never finished it. Do you remember why you stopped reading? 

I do. I once read a story that seemed interesting enough to keep going. But when I got to the chapter where descriptions began to feel like the author simply wanting to show off her knowledge on history, even though it didn’t necessarily pertain to the story or to the protagonist, I closed the book.

Description is a vital part of a story. It is what paints the picture for the reader. It is what puts them in the mood and helps them see the story clearer. But when descriptions become too flowery or too detailed, I lose interest.

Last year, I began reading a novel that started off strong. A few pages in, I found myself skipping sentences and paragraphs. The author described too many mundane details I didn’t care for. I wanted to get to the story, but instead found myself skipping through sections about what the character ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then what beer he bought, when and where he bought it, and how he sipped it. It was way too much. I stopped reading in the midst of chapter four.

So now I’d like to ask you a few questions about fiction. If you’d like to answer them, simply leave your answers in the comments section below:

1. What genre of fiction do you enjoy reading?

2. What is your favorite novel, and why?

3. Who is your favorite novelist, and why?

4. What makes you lose interest in a story?

5. What types of protagonists do you like reading about? Do you dislike?

6 What type of endings do you prefer (happy, tragic, sad, cliffhanger endings)?

7. What type of narration do you prefer (example: first-person or third-person)? Does it matter?

8. What novel(s) have you read more than once? Why?

Thanks for answering the questions.

Happy reading and writing!

Friday Quote

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Where I Get My Ideas

Isn’t it amazing how random things can suddenly inspire you to write?

Here’s a little poem I wrote today.

Random (by Corey M. P.)

The song that woke me up
The movie I watched last night
The coffee stain on my shirt
The flicker of the light

The couple holding hands
The dialogue I overheard
The mood I’m in
The way the birds chirped

The blank wall
The purple house down the street
The red door
The people that I meet

The old man reading the paper
The leaf that fell on my shoe
The song that lulled me to sleep
The dream I had that I wish I could go back to

Why You Should Write a Personal Story

ThisIsMyStory

I read an interesting article recently about how publishing personal stories could be the quickest way to the top—regardless if you’ve never been published before.

Apparently, publishers, and even Hollywood executives want stories that are unique and dramatic. A good example that comes to mind is, “Running with Scissors” by Augusten Burroughs.

Hemingway once said that “the earliest training for a writer is an unhappy childhood.” I can definitely see why that is. The pen seems to hit the paper more when you’ve lived a life full of ups and downs, especially at an early age. My childhood was definitely a mixed bag of challenges. Life wasn’t perfect at all, but I wouldn’t say my childhood was just unhappy. Despite it all, there were a lot of little happy things that happened too.

I’ve thought about writing a personal story once or twice before, but I’ve always held myself back. I somehow feel that it would be too hard for me to write one. Hard, because I would probably be too emotional and too involved that by the time I finished writing, I’d be an absolute mess…but maybe not. Maybe I’d feel better. Relieved. Liberated.

So yes, maybe I will write one.

How about you? Would you write a personal story?

Click here to read the article.

How Often Do You Write?

“You fail only if you stop writing.”
—Ray Bradbury

I love this quote. It’s so true. And it applies to life as well. It’s like saying, you fail only if you stop trying.

I’ve always wanted to become a writer ever since I was fourteen years old. Although I wrote on and off for years, I never quite believed that I was a writer. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally decided I was going to become one. Since then, I’ve managed to write my first novel and my first novelette. It turns out, in order to become a writer, all I had to do was keep writing.

So now I write every day. Even if it’s just a sentence or a paragraph. I know if I keep writing, that sentence or that paragraph could later become a story.

What about you? How often do write?